Pets play such a significant role in many American families. I’m going to celebrate some of the canine and feline members of mine in this issue and a few future issues as well.
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I Don’t Want To Do This Again
My wife, Marie, has had dogs, that’s dogs plural, every since she’s lived on her own. She’s had Bouviers, for a while she had a Bouvier and a Poodle. When we got together back in ‘08 she had two Bouviers. She had rescued Leo and Lucy in Kentucky. Leo weighed over a 100 pounds and little Lucy was 70+. More than once people mistook them for bears. Lucy loved to go on walks. Leo was more like me. As long as we could see Marie and Lucy we were happy, but we felt no need to overdo this exercise thing. Both dogs succumbed to cancer.
I had been deeply hurt when after 18 years my childhood dog died and I swore I wasn’t going through that again. So when Leo and Lucy died I doubled down and pronounced, “Never again.”
I’ve had several cats over the years. A couple lived to be 16 and 19. I have loved them deeply, but their passing always seemed less traumatic. My second wife had given me a Norwegian Forest Cat when we were together. She had kept Bella after the divorce, but when Leo and Lucy died, she asked if I would like to take Bella.
Bella was one of a long line of what I’ve always referred to as “dog cats.” Cats that follow you around. Cats that enjoy your company and want to be with you. Bella had been a rescue weighing eight tenths of a pound when Stephanie brought her home. To calm her, I would put her on my chest so she could hear my heartbeat. By the time she came to live with Marie and me she weighed 18 pounds. And she still wanted to lie on my chest. She was becoming blind and deaf and soon she would wake at 3:00 a.m. howling to be fed. She passed away in early 2011. Once again, I’d had it. “I don’t want to go through this anymore.”
Almost immediately Marie began to lobby for getting another dog. This is not a simple as it seems. Among her many allergies, Marie is allergic to dog fur. Hence the Bouviers and Poodles, they have hair. She was constantly online surfing animal rescue sites and showing me pictures of beautiful dogs in need of a home. I would whine, “Sweetness, I just don’t want to go through this again.”
Well, just after Christmas she showed me a picture of a “sheepdog” at the county animal control. I agreed to go look at the dog with her. They put us in a glass walled room where they could bring the dog in to meet you without being distracted. They ushered in this ambulatory mop. Who immediately came to me and began to shed all over my slacks. She was as sweet as she could be. She was very high energy. Something we attributed to nerves at the time. I’m sure you saw where this was going; we took her home.
Marie told me they’d misidentified the dog. She was an ill-kempt Golden Doodle. When the sun caught her white coat, the tips shone golden. We named her Goldilocks aka Goldie.
She had been found wandering loose. It turned out she was an escape artist, who loved to run. She liked to chase things, the trained said she “a strong prey instinct”, but she didn’t need a quarry. She just loved to run.
When we took her to doggie daycare, they said she ran from the minute she got there ‘til we picked her up. Occasionally, she would pause to hang with the Basset Hounds in the wading pool. Basset Hound ears hang into the water, tainting the water with the smell of Basset Hound earwax. Goldie would come home reeking.
When in the house Goldie would frequently stand on her hind legs at the front window alerting us to the dangers outside. We never seemed to appreciate the threat posed by squirrels, birds (you do know they are descended from dinosaurs) and those pesky feral cats that would sit outside and look at Goldie going wild behind the window. Hanging with the Basset Hounds she picked up another language. She would howl for a day or two after every daycare visit. The most mournful sound you have ever heard.
I wish I could howl. Goldie passed away June 5th. She’d been ailing for about three weeks. We’d been to the vet and were awaiting the test results. I woke up about 4:45 that morning. Her breathing had changed. Marie and I sat with her, giving her long, comforting, momma strokes. At 5:45 she had a seizure and at 6:00 she gave up the “Ghost” and crossed that Rainbow Bridge. The tests revealed she died of cancer, too.
We find ourselves looking for her face at the window, when we pull up to the house. She recognized the sound of both our cars and would rouse herself to welcome us. We’re still careful, not opening the door too wide lest she get past us necessitating hunting her down. And I still fear I’ll step on her on my way to bathroom in the middle of the night.
I seem to be handling this better than I have in the past. That said, I don’t care how many times I hear, “It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” I don’t want to do this again. I’m happy to love the neighbors’ dogs. I’m happy to pet my friends’ dogs. I’m happy to pet strangers’ dogs.
If I can only keep Marie off those online animal rescue sites.
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Til next time,